Alouettes 34, Redblacks 30
It is never easy to lose a football match.
Arriving empty-handed at home has become too big a habit for the Ottawa Redblacks, who have been on the wrong side of the scoreboard in 22 of their last 23 games at TD Place. But somehow this seemed different, it had a different vibe. Missing several key players through injuries, the Redblacks faced the Montreal Alouettes on Friday night. The scoreboard showed the Alouettes winning 34-30, but the Redblacks did something they haven’t done much of this season: score points early in the game and provide entertainment value to their fans. It was the first time this season that the Redblacks had scored two touchdowns in the first quarter. Ottawa also scored on the first play of the second quarter.
“It’s tough every time you lose,” Redblacks head coach Bob Dyce said. “Our job is to score more points than them. Thirty points were not enough, we needed 35. We have to add the points we need to add”.
The Alouettes are now 8-8, while the Redblacks drop to 4-12. And yet, they could still have a shot at making the Canadian Soccer League playoffs, needing to sweep the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who beat Calgary 35-32 on Friday night, in the last two games of their regular season and expect the Saskatchewan Roughriders to lose their remaining two games.
Ottawa quarterback Nick Arbuckle had 18 completions for 176 yards in the first half. The passing yards, however, dried up in the second half; Arbuckle finished with 271. Surprisingly, the Alouettes, in the first 30 minutes, had just eight rushing yards, seven of them by star William Stanback. But Montreal changed its game plan in the second half, rushing for 84 yards and controlling the pace.
“We had a little more success on the first down in the first half,” Dyce said. “Sometimes we got first downs on first downs. That builds momentum, we didn’t see that much in the second half. That was a challenge for our offense. Defensively, we played hard for most of the game.”
How about some trick on the first offensive play of the game? Arbuckle passed the ball to wide receiver Ryan Davis, who threw the ball downfield for a 45-yard gain to Shaq Johnson to the Montreal 34-yard line. Three plays later, Arbuckle found Siaosi Mariner wide open in the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown, the first of the rookie’s CFL career. Lewis Ward’s conversion made it 7-0 just over three minutes into the game.
“It was a great start to the game,” Arbuckle said. “We had talked a lot about some of those plays that we were going to run and we were excited. The double pass was something we had been practicing since Week 1 of the season and it had never been called. Finally getting a chance to let those guys do something they’d been ready for a long time was fun.”
The Alouettes tied the game with just under eight minutes left in the quarter. Deep in the Ottawa winger, Montreal’s Thomas Costigan stripped Arbuckle of the ball as he scrambled for second-down yards. Adarius Pickett picked it up and ran into the end zone untouched.
Ottawa got that touchdown back on their next drive, with Arbuckle hitting Tevaun Smith in stride for a 35-yard touchdown. The converted made it 14-7 with 5:14 left in the first quarter.
After a 55-yard kickoff return by Chandler Worthy, Montreal made it 14-10 on David Côté’s 23-yard field goal.
After a pass interference penalty against Montreal’s Nafees Lyon (on Mariner in the end zone), Ottawa backup quarterback Caleb Evans pushed for a touchdown from the one-yard line, making it 21 -10.
A 41-yard catch by Geno Lewis carried Montreal into Redblacks territory. A botched tackle by Douglas Coleman allowed Walter Fletcher to tiptoe down the sideline for a 40-yard touchdown (38 after the catch). It was 21-17 with 6:21 left in the second quarter.
Ward kicked a 41-yard field goal with 10 seconds left in the first half, making it 24-17.
The Alouettes had a 45-yard field goal on the opening drive of the second half and made it 24-20. Stanback’s three-yard touchdown and converted tied the game with 3:21 remaining in the third quarter.
A 44-yard field goal by Ward on the first play of the fourth quarter gave Ottawa a 27-24 lead.
The Alouettes gave up the ball on a third down bet. Montreal quarterback Dominique Davis was stopped about an inch at the Montreal 50-yard line, with Redblacks linebacker Shaheed Salmon and a group of teammates making the stop.
On third down from Montreal’s three-yard line, it looked like Ottawa was going for the touchdown, but Ward trotted in and kicked a field goal to make it 30-24. When asked if he was tempted to gamble, Dyce said: “I wouldn’t say tempted. The way our defense was playing, I felt like we needed those three points. Third and third, I wanted to make sure we took all the scores we could get. I was confident that we could go down and score again. We made the field goal and I don’t regret it.”
A 39-yard punt return from Worthy gave Montreal the ball at the Ottawa 23-yard line. Alouettes quarterback Trevor Harris fended off four tackles to fight for a big first down. Davis wound his way into the end zone for a one-yard touchdown with 2:50 left in the game. The convert made it 34-30.
Montreal coughed up the ball on a turnover with 61 seconds remaining when Davis was stopped again on a short third-down bet. So Ottawa got one last chance, but Montreal recovered another fumble from Arbuckle on a desperate third-down play.
“We had a little sloppiness on the ball,” Arbuckle said. “My fumble (in the first quarter) didn’t help. But we also hit back a few plays later with another touchdown to retake the lead and rebuild that momentum. Unfortunately, we couldn’t keep that up long enough in the second half to give the defense the relief it needed.”
THE END AROUND: The attendance was announced as 18,147. I guess that’s what happens when you string together a lot of bad football games in your home stadium… After long periods of inactivity this season, the chainsaw boys chopping down logs after every Ottawa touchdown might have worn out the Early Friday… Nice play by Ottawa defensive tackle Cleyon Laing, with some help from Lorenzo Mauldin IV, sacked Trevor Harris and got the Alouettes out of field goal range early in the first quarter… After from being fined for two high hits (over Jaelon Acklin and Justin Hardy) in the previous game against the Redblacks on Monday, Alouettes defensive back Adarius Pickett did it again on Friday, digging his helmet into Ryan Davis. in the first room. He got a 15-yard penalty for the last… With second and maybe four inches left in the third quarter, the Alouettes went for the touchdown pass, but Money Hunter brought him down in the end zone. On the next play, Davis put in six inches and the first down
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